Jalna Hanmer discusses consciousness raising groups



Jalna Hanmer talks about the 'requirements' of consciousness-raising groups in raising women's collective consciousness about their oppression. Interestingly, she acknowledges her own preference not to talk about her personal life, while suggesting it is beneficial to many others.

Do you think consciousness raising is a form of activism?

Why do you think someone might not want to join in a consciousness-raising group?

C-R is a way of making conversation. What ideas do you think came out of consciousness raising?

In what ways did and could consciousness raising lead to group activism?

Image details

Women in a circle, illustration by Annalou, from Women’s Therapy Centre annual report '81-'82 © Women's Therapy Centre



Oh I never told them anything. I’m not the least bit interested in discussing anything personal really, in those groups. So everybody used to joke about it, how I’d been in a group for years and never said a thing, but that was pretty well true actually. The reason you had to be in one of the groups was the groups met. That was the Women's Liberation Movement, so if you weren't in a group, if you were just an individual, how do you get into it at that particular point in time. It was all about groups and about women meeting to talk about their personal situations. What was wrong with it, what could be done about it, to try to bring about changes to a more satisfactory life.

I mean I didn't have any particular problems beyond being really, perhaps a bit overworked or something. I didn't have a lot of problems, I didn't think. I mean I probably did have problems but I didn't recognise them. And I just felt I didn't want to… anyway, all the other women wanted to say all manner of things about themselves and their marriages and everything that was going on for them in life.

They were all required to talk. Because that's the way you discover your oppression. It made a lot of sense and it actually worked as a system. I don’t try to say anything negative about it really, other than that I wasn’t very interested in being part of it. 'Cos women didn't understand why they felt so bad, they didn't understand why they were so… they really couldn't do the things they wanted to do, it was just a kind of terrible mystery. So it's only by talking about it that there began to be some understanding and it was really understanding about oppression and where does the oppression come from and who's oppressing me and how can this be overcome. You know, these really quite basic life questions women were grappling with in these consciousness raising groups.

Jalna Hanmer discusses consciousness raising groups
15 - 16 November 2010
Sound recording
Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation Oral History Project
© British Library
Held by
British Library

Full catalogue details

Related articles


Article by:
Sisterhood and After Research Team

Many women in the early days of the Women’s Liberation Movement felt bewildered about what it meant to be a woman, what they were doing with their lives and why. Discover how consciousness-raising groups helped participants to discuss their feelings, needs and desires.

Activism and the Women’s Liberation Movement

Article by:
Sisterhood and After Research Team

The Women’s Liberation Movement was formed of young women living in a period of rapid social and cultural change. Many were also active in civil rights, peace and new left movements and had the skills to spread their message in powerful and varied ways. Read this introductory article to discover the campaigning methods used by the WLM and the differences in approach, method and political starting point.

Related collection items

Related people